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Tt?s SovXrjs in the Magnificat, Luke i. 48. 



'HjirtfiXtiptv i7ri ttjv Ttxirtivuxriv Trj'; BovXrji avrov, " He hath looked 
upon the low estate of his handmaiden." As it stands in the text, 
T)}s SovXr/s refers of course to Mary. This immediately raises the 
question of the origin of the hymn. 

Four views are in the field : (i) that the song is Mary's, an utter- 
ance inspired by the emotional situation, the content of which is 
determined by Mary's familiarity with the lyric religious poetry of 
her nation; (2) that the song is a remnant of early Jewish-Christian 
hymnology ; (3) that it is a Jewish hymn, borrowed and set in its 
present place by the Christian editor; (4) the view of Harnack 
(Sitzungsb. d. Akad. d. Wiss., Berlin, 1900, 27), that it is the com- 
position of the author of the Third Gospel. He supposes it to have 
been put in the mouth of Elisabeth, and early transferred to Mary 
by mistaken editing. The reference of the song to Elisabeth, how- 
ever, does not affect our present problem. 

Of these views, the most reasonable seems to be that the song 
is a fragment of Jewish psalmody, of the same type as that preserved 
in the Psalms of Solomon. The arguments for this position may be 
summarized thus : 

1. The song has no reference to the peculiar position of Mary, 
and, curiously enough, no reference to a personal Messiah. On 
the contrary, it expresses the common Jewish Messianic hope, and, 
with the exception of riys SovX^, would have been perfectly appro- 
priate in the mouth of any Judaistic poet. 

2. It is distinctly national rather than personal. If t^s BovX-qs be 
dropped out of consideration, the first person of the song may easily 
be read as national. In fact, it can scarcely be treated in any other 
way, as is shown by the progress of thought. The basis of the praise 
of 6 Kvpios (= ^X) is that "he hath done for me pcydXa." And 
what are these /xtyaXa ? They are scattering the proud, putting down 
princes, lifting the humble to exalted places, feeding the poor wit 

WOOD : Tt)s 8ovA.7?S in the MAGNIFICAT, LUKE i. 48. 49 

good things while the rich are sent empty away, helping Israel his 
ttois according to the promises of old — all expressions which belong 
to the national literature. For parallels see Resch, "Kindheits- 
evangelium," Texte u. Untersuch., Band X, Heft 5 ; W. H. ; Plummer's 
Luke ; Harnack, op. cit., and for the Ps. Sol., Ryle and James, p. xci. 
The entire thought lies within the common Jewish national range. 

3. It is difficult to suppose it a Jewish-Christian interpolation, since 
it contains no recognition of a personal Messiah. All the hopes of 
the writer are grounded, not on a Messianic prince, but on the work 
of God himself. The Messianic hope of the writer belongs, not to 
the personal type of the authors of Ps. Sol. 1 7 and 18 and Enoch 37 ff., 
but to the impersonal type of the authors of Daniel, the Assumption 
of Moses, and the Book of Jubilees. Harnack's suggestion cannot 
be treated fully in -a brief article like this, but one is led to wonder 
whether a compend of phrases from Hebrew literature so skilfully 
put together — and Harnack makes much of the constructive skill 
of the author — could have been produced by what must, in that 
case, have been the more or less academic performance of the 
Lucan editor. The fresh spontaneity of the song would seem to 
point to some author to whom the phrases of Jewish literature were 
a part of his very heart and life. 

The general position that the song is Jewish is argued at length 
by Hillmann, Jahrb. f. Prot. Th. 1890. Holtzmann, Syn. Evang., 
3d ed., follows Hillmann. (In the first edition he calls the song 
"without doubt an early remnant of Jewish-Christian hymnology.") 
Neither, however, find the hymn a strictly national Jewish song. 
The feminine expression t^s 8ov\r)s is in the way. Hillmann suggests 
that the song was " perhaps originally the song of thanks of a mother 
over the happy home-coming of a son from a victorious campaign 
against the oppressors of Israel " (op. cit., p. 200) . Such an 
explanation fails to fit the entirely national character of the song 
outside of the single phrase t^s SovAt/s. 

With regard to this phrase, it is only the feminine gender that 
creates any difficulty. May we not suppose that the gender is due 
to the editorial assignment of the song to Mary? Then, changing 
it to masculine, tov SovXov becomes the translation of the Hebrew 
IS-?, usef l of the nation. Such a use of SotiAos for T2V in the national 
sense is found in the LXX in Isa. 48 20 49* 5 Ezek. 37^ Ps. 136 22 . In 
Ps. Sol. the word is twice used in the plural for pure Israel : 2 41 eiXo- 
yryros Kvpio's «s tov aloiva iviamov tS>v Bov\<j>v avrov ; IO 4 p.vqo~0rjO-trox 
Kvpio's tS>v Sov/W avrov iv cA«t. This plural use is in accord with 


the method of expression in these Psalms. Jerusalem is personified 
in them, but the nation is always spoken of in plural forms. 

Interpreting SovXrjs in this way, the whole song becomes consistent, 
and the use of the first person is throughout national. In putting 
it in the mouth of Mary the editor has simply followed ancient 
examples, like the song of Hannah, which is also incongruous to its 
situation, the blessing of Jacob, and the last words of Moses and 
David. Nor is there any reason to assume that he supposed this 
old and perhaps well-known song would be regarded as Mary's com- 
position. He used it only as a fitting literary expression for the 
Messianic hopes and patriotic aspirations which he assumed to have 
filled her mind during the period preceding the birth of Christ. 
Here again he was following Jewish models. What was the attitude 
of the authors of the Prayer of Azarias and the Song of the Three 
Children toward their compositions ? Did they intend them to pass 
as verbatim words of the characters to whom they are assigned, or 
simply as literary expressions appropriate to their situation? 

To make r^s 8ovAt;s the representative of an original T35 use d of 
the nation is to simplify the exegesis of a passage that otherwise 
presents great difficulties. It only remains to add that the assign- 
ment of the song to Mary is more easily explained after the transla- 
tion into Greek than before. It would then involve only the change 
of gender, while if made in Hebrew, it would have required the 
substitution for "D25 of another word, as nrtStT or HDX. 1 

1 The same arguments for a Jewish origin will apply to the first part of the 
Song of Zacharias, Lk. i 68 - 73 . Vs. 7 "" 79 are regarded by Hillmann and Holtzmann 
as a Jewish-Christian addition. The arguments are (i) the change of tense from 
aorist to future, (2) the definite reference in the last part to the Messiah, with a 
Christian rather than a Jewish tone, (3) certain repetitions and discrepancies of 
thought between the two sections, (4) the word iraidlov, v. 76 . Probably the 
analysis is correct, and the last section is a Christian addition to the original 
Jewish Messianic song; but the word TaiSLov would of itself create no more 
difficulty than does SotiXyt in v. 48 . It would be possible to regard it also as the 
representative of 15?, coming through Tats, though in this case the meaning of 
131) would be, not Israel, but the personal Messiah, as in Acts 4 27 - 30 Mt. 12 18 . 
The change from irah to iratStov would be made to fit the reference of the word 
to the infant John. Probably, however, as said above, the section is Christian in 
origin, but the use of iraiSW creates no absolute demand for this interpretation.